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In summary, lessons learned from the implementation of the foreclosure program have
imparted a new wisdom about court management and efficient practices. This court project can
serve as a template for other courts which encounter the difficulties of a challenging year during
the foreclosure crisis. More specifically, there are basic conclusions and recommendations which
have utility and application for implementation of a foreclosure pilot program.
Conclusion 1 Standardize Review of Summary Judgment Submission
Upon implementation of the foreclosure program, new standards were set to raise the
caliber of pleadings, orders and ensure compliance with administrative orders. Here, the primary
issues were due process concerns. To standardize courtroom results, the summary judgment
checklist was used primarily to confirm proper notice, service of process and review for
mediation compliance. Secondly, the checklist was used to review loan documents, affidavits
and usage of the uniform summary judgment form. From a quality control perspective, summary
judgment review tested the sufficiency of the filings and provided a fair and balanced case
review. Throughout the duration of the foreclosure program it became clear that the
standardization of review was yielding superior results. More litigants were appearing in court
and parties were complying with the procedural requirements. Further, application of this review
resulted in more uniform results in summary judgment cases. While the initial implementation of
the review process was time consuming at first, the beneficial economies of scale which were
gained outweighed the costs. In short, usage of the checklist improved the effectiveness of court
management and resulted in more equitable proceedings.
Recommendation 1: Implementation of Case Review for Uniformity
In writing this recommendation, the hands-on experience of the foreclosure program,
with all its ups and downs, provides guidance. These lessons learned illustrate how the
foreclosure program could be improved when implemented, if given another opportunity. The
success of the standardized case review checklist has been tried and proven. In this experience,
it provided: (1) assurance of due process, (2) raised the standard of pleadings, (3) ensured
compliance with procedural requirements, and (4) benefitted the court system with gains in
economies of scale. In fact, the components of the case review can be expanded and applied to
other areas of law to further maximize its potential. In this experience, the case review tool was
helpful to everyone, from judges to litigants, except those that were noncompliant with
From the standpoint of the judiciary, summary judgment hearings became more
simplistic, since case review provided a snapshot of the case, identifying any deficiencies.
Although there was a learning curve, plaintiff law firms addressed issues before summary
judgment rather than risking denial of their motion. Similarly, defendants became more familiar
with the process, participated in mediation and court proceedings and explored viable options.
While the impact of the standardized case review is difficult to quantify, the increase in active
participation of defendants in the foreclosure is indicative of overall results. In summary, the
foreclosure program achieved the fair and effective court management goal.
Conclusion 2: Creation of Section 50 for Stagnant Cases
A final variable in assessing the foreclosure program is a determination as to whether
aged, stagnant cases were effectively closed. The relative age of the remaining open cases has
declined sharply due to the clearing of 41,353 cases. However, it is unclear as to how many of
the closed cases represent the stagnant aged caseload. While statistics were collected and
maintained to identify case closure, the foreclosure program did not further breakdown the
statistics as to older cases. Part of the reason for this is the implementation of Section 50, a
special division to manage the older stagnant cases midway through the foreclosure program.
While statistics from the start of Section 50 would have been helpful, it would not present an
accurate picture as to the closure of older cases since a portion of these cases had been closed in
Section 85. This overlap would skew the statistics and prove unreliable.
Recommendation 2: Trials Are More Efficient in Foreclosure Cases
Case management hearings can sometimes be useful to move stagnant cases through the
courts. In the initial months of the foreclosure program, case management was used to identify
the obstacles in older Section 50 cases and to reduce or eliminate them so that the case can
progress. However, the efficacy of case management hearings declines sharply after two
hearings. The basic premise is that if you cannot get it done in two hearings, it becomes a waste
of time and resources.
Based on this experience, the recommendation is to set trials to move cases. Other than
summary judgment hearings, the most effective tool to manage foreclosure cases is to set a trial
date. Just setting a trial date flushed out the real controversies, with only a fraction of the cases
actually going to trial. Many cases took voluntary dismissals rather than attempt to prove their
case. On an average setting of 50 foreclosure bench trials, only three cases would proceed to
trial. See appendix D. Administrative Order Setting Foreclosure Cases for Non-Jury Trial.
Conclusion 3: Limited Resources Hamper Efficiency
Automated scheduling for trials and summary judgment hearings was a luxury which the
foreclosure program did not enjoy. Many employees were assigned to perform this function
which could have been expedited with new technology. However, the limited resources of the
court hampered efficiency in the scheduling of trials and summary judgment hearings. Effective
use of technology would have dramatically improved productivity.
Recommendation 3: Improve Efficiency with Automated Scheduling
At the onset, commit to technological implementation to improve efficiency and provide
judicial economy. E-filing and automated scheduling would tremendously improve productivity
and provide benefits to all parties.
Conclusion 4: Rejection of Summary Judgment Case Packets Proves to be Ineffective and
This pilot program experience has demonstrated that the policy of rejecting summary
judgment packets due to deficiencies is counterproductive. Besides assuming the burden of
checking litigant’s pleadings for compliance, the initial policy of rejecting submissions and
identifying deficiencies did not provide a measurable benefit to the courts. Multiple submissions
which repeated errors continued to be sent from the law firms, wasting valuable judicial
Recommendation 4: Record Case Deficiency and Schedule Hearings on Summary
The new policy of recording the deficiencies in the case review for the judge, but not
rejecting the submission has proved more worthwhile. This way, the judge can deny the motion
or give the litigant time in which to remedy the deficiency. Either way, it is appropriately within
judicial discretion to decide the outcome, enter an order and compel compliance with the order.
Conclusion 5: Statistics Are Critical to Measurement of Program.
Upon the initiation of the foreclosure program, it was determined that everything should
be recorded and statistics should be generated to illustrate progress of the case along the way.
Despite best efforts, and the design of special software to track the cases, experience has proven
that the program needed to generate even more statistical data to analyze the success of the
program. Some of these deficiencies can be attributed to the failings of the computer program,
some are simple human errors in the recording of information, but more than often, separate
statistics were not kept to isolate the productivity of the Section 85 and Section 50. Since these
Sections operated different approaches, this data would have been useful in the measurement of
Recommendation 5: Record Statistical Events at Every Step
The importance of statistics cannot be underestimated. Whatever you are counting, count
it twice, three times and then take a look at it from another point of view. In the middle of pilot
program operations it was not always apparent that there were correlations between variables
which would have allow the program to adjust more readily. The benefit of additional statistical
data would have demonstrated the utility of a mid-course correction, without waiting six months
into the program. Identification of clearance rates earlier in the program would have
demonstrated the efficiency of management. More and better statistics provide the basis for
maximizing the judicial resources to everyone’s benefit.
Conclusion 6: Staffing Issues Delay Initiation of Program
The foreclosure program was impacted from the beginning by inadequate staffing. Until
the funding for the foreclosure program was available, openings for jobs could not be publicized,
interviews could not be conducted and staff could not be hired. This initial delay in start up
operations had a detrimental effect on getting the program underway, resulting in a two (2)
month loss up front. Similarly, as the program came to a close in its last two (2) months,
qualified employees left the job for more permanent employment. Inadequate staffing for the
total of four (4) months hampered operations, as the foreclosure program continued with a
skeleton crew. While this problem is symptomatic of any temporary pilot program, it presents
unique challenges for management, supervision and work production.
Recommendation 6: Post Job Opportunities Early
The human resource issues could be better managed with proper planning. Early postings
of job announcements on the website and circulated among the universities do not require the
expenditure of funds not allocated yet. Additionally, the actual job listings should be ready to
print immediately when the funds become available. From a human resource standpoint,
interviews should be scheduled as qualified applicants become available; rather than waiting to
conduct interviews all at once. Unfortunately, retention of qualified employees as a program
ends is more problematic. Whenever possible, we attempted to secure permanent employment
for proven employees as they continued to work through program termination.
Conclusion 7: Communication was Effective and Constant
Communication was a genuine strength of the foreclosure program. Town hall meetings,
open house for the new foreclosure program, e-mail letters advising law firms of changes and
website access with the opportunity to send basic inquiries were assets. The strength of these
lines of communication with the customer base improved the efficiency of court management.
Table 8 below represents a sample of e-mail blasts that were sent to all foreclosure law
firms. Town Hall meetings were frequently held to keep everyone informed and ease the
transition to new procedures.
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